Debt with a high interest rate means too much hard-earned money going toward interest — and not enough to the principal. Here are five steps to get a lower rate.
Debt is bad enough on its own, but the worst part? The interest, especially on credit cards. Who hasn’t looked at their statement in shock because it feels like the entire monthly payment is going toward the interest and not the principal?
Interest can add a huge amount of money to your debt. (Google “loan payment calculator” to find out exactly how much interest you’ll end up paying if you make only the minimum payments.) There’s no way to avoid paying interest, but you can pay less interest. All it takes is some planning, persistence and a phone call or email. Here are five steps to save money fast.
1. Do your research
You know all that information that comes with a new credit card? Most of us don’t read it, but it does contain vital information about your card’s interest rate. If you don’t have it, then take a look at your latest statement. It will let you know the interest rate, which may differ depending on the class of debt (purchases versus cash advances, for example).
2. Know your credit history
It’s easier to negotiate a lower interest rate if you have a good credit history or are facing bankruptcy. Find out your credit score and get a copy of your history by contacting Equifax or TransUnion. Fees are minimal and the order can be free if you make your request in writing via mail. They will send you a detailed breakdown of your credit history and a rating. Having this makes it easier to negotiate a lower rate.
3. Make the call or send the email
Calling your bank or credit company and asking for a lower interest rate might sound intimidating, but remember: They are used to people calling and emailing all the time. Don’t worry about standing out. Your call doesn’t have to be complicated. Just point out that you’re a good customer or willing to file for bankruptcy and you’ve received offers from other credit card companies. As a result you would like a lower rate on your card, or you will take up an offer from one of the rival companies.
4. Be persistent
Sometimes you get lucky and they lower the interest rate. Sometimes you don’t, but don’t give up. Ask to speak to a supervisor and ask again for a lower rate. Keep moving up the food chain until you get a satisfactory answer.
If your request doesn’t work the first call, give it a few days and call again. Keep trying. Remember, they want to keep your business — the credit card industry, while profitable, is also extremely competitive.
5. Make the switch (if you have to)
Most of the time, your credit card company will lower your interest rate. It’s in their best interest to keep receiving money from you and to keep you as a customer. If they don’t, then it might be time to end your relationship with that company and make the switch to another company that’s offering a lower rate. Transferring your debt to the lower-interest card can save you a lot of money over the course of paying off the debt.
Putting in a bit of effort to lower your interest rate could be the best thing that happens to you and your debt. But remember, you did all of that so that more of your monthly payments will go toward the principal instead of the interest. Be careful not to compensate by lowering payments or spending more.